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Swedish king: Nobel trouble can be ‘seriously damaging’

In this Monday, April 3, 2017 file photo, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden speaks during a meeting with Brazilian and Swedish businessmen, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Andre Penner / Associated Press)
In this Monday, April 3, 2017 file photo, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden speaks during a meeting with Brazilian and Swedish businessmen, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Andre Penner / Associated Press)
Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – The resignation of three members from the Swedish Academy awarding the Nobel Literature Prize is “deeply unfortunate and risk seriously damaging” the body’s “important activities,” Sweden’s king said Wednesday.

The prestigious Nobel institution has been troubled by the resignation of Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund Friday, who quit after the secretive 18-member academy voted against removing a female colleague whose husband is embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations.

In his second statement this week, Carl XVI Gustav, said that “it is crucial that all involved now realize their responsibility for the institution and contribute to resolving conflicts.”

The king is the academy’s patron, and must approve any of the body’s secret votes before they are made public.

Academy members are appointed for life and resignations are extremely rare. The king said in light of recent developments, he will consider new rules for members to withdraw.

The three members who resigned were calling for the removal of fellow academy member Katarina Frostenson, whose husband, Jean-Claude Arnault, has been accused of sexual misconduct and leaking Nobel winners’ names.

He was banned in December by the Swedish Academy from attending a Nobel banquet after Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter published allegations from 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by Arnault.

Arnault, the head of a Stockholm culture center, denies the alleged assaults which reportedly occurred between 1996 and 2017.

In March, Swedish prosecutors said an investigation into reported rape and sexual abuse by Arnault during 2013 to 2015 had been dropped, but a probe into other criminal acts would continue. It did not give further details.

Separately on Tuesday, one of Sweden’s biggest dailies, Dagens Nyheter, cited an internal Academy probe alleging Arnault leaked the names of winners the Nobel Literature Prize seven times, starting in 1996. Dagens Nyheter says names include U.S. singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and Belarus journalist Svetlana Alexievich.

It was not clear how he had learned who were the recipients or to whom the names were disclosed.

The academy keeps names secret, never discusses potential winners and has kept nominations secret for half a century.

Englund had suggested he was quitting over how the academy had handled the Arnault allegations, while Ostergren said there had long been serious problems at the academy, with relations between its members often considered more important than changing the body’s statutes.

The Academy itself has declined to comment, saying it doesn’t want to take the limelight from the Nordic Prize 2018 – another award it hands out – due to be given Wednesday to Agneta Pleijel, a Swedish novelist, poet, playwright, journalist and literary critic.

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